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Two Tanzanian newspapers banned over "seditious articles"

The government of Tanzania has banned two widely-read newspapers, Mwananchi and Mtanzania, for allegedly publishing seditious articles. The ban came into effect on Friday, 27 September 2013.

At a press conference, the government's Information Services Director, Assah Mwambene, said the newspapers had also been banned because they carried articles which were likely to force citizens to mistrust their government.

A government gazette number 333 of September 2013 bans Mwananchi for 14 days and Mtanzania for 90 days.

Mwambene made reference to several stories published by both newspapers and said these stories had not met minimum ethical standards, hence the ban.

One such story, entitled "New Government Salary Scheme 2013", appeared the 17 July edition of Mwananchi and is said to have been based on an official document that was not for public consumption.

Mtanzania is said to have published, in its 20 March edition, an article suggesting the president of Tanzania had blood on his hands. The article was titled "Urais Damu", which translates to "The Bloody Presidency". On June 12, the newspaper is said to have also published an article titled "The Revolution is Inevitable". Mwambene alleges these articles were aimed at inciting violence.

A coalition of human rights defenders in Tanzania is meeting today (30 September) to craft a response to the ban of the two newspapers.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has condemned the ban on both Mwananchi and Mtanzania. MISA's Regional Programme Specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring & Research, Levi Kabwato, said the organisation will engage with relevant government authorities in Tanzania in order to map a way forward.

“We are extremely worried with what's happening in Tanzania. September is the anniversary month of the brutal killing of Daudi Mwangosi, an issue that is still to be adequately addressed. There have been several other concerns, such as the banning of Mwanahalisi, which have also not been addressed,” Kabwato said.

He added: “The recent ban on Mwananchi and Mtanzania, points to a country that is following a disturbing trend. We therefore urge the government of Tanzania to carefully consider its actions towards the media, recognise the information needs of the people of Tanzania and to engage with the media accountability bodies which exist in the country as a way of dealing with various concerns that may arise from time to time.”

Tanzania continues to use the outdated and repressive legislation such as the 1976 Newspaper Act and the National Security Act of 1970 to muzzle the press and block access information in the country. Calls have been made to reform these laws and align them with the Constitution and other human rights instruments.

In January this year, Tanzania president, Jakaya Kikwete, vowed not to unban the weekly newspaper, MwanaHalisi. The newspaper was banned in July 2012. Kikwete said the newspaper would remain banned because his government does not condone breach of peace incited by the media.

“We will not unban MwanaHalisi newspaper because inciting the army to commit treason isn't the kind of journalism that we want,” Kikwete was quoted as saying by various Tanzanian media at the time.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • IFJ Raises Concerns About Deteriorating Situation of Press Freedom in Tanzania
  • Ban on Tanzanian newspapers continues

    The action against Mwananchi stems from an article on salary increases for public employees that was based on a confidential documents. The government said the article breached secrecy statues. The newspaper was also accused of "provoking hostility by Islamic worshippers towards the Police Force" in connection with reports about security at mosques, the Ministry of Information said in a statement.

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